UN E-Government Survey in Media
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The newly published United
Nations (UN) E-Government Survey presents a systematic
assessment of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to
transform the public sector by enhancing its efficiency, effectiveness,
accountability, inclusiveness, trustworthiness and supporting people’s
participation and engagement.
The survey examines emerging e-government issues and trends, and
innovative practices that are relevant to the international community.
By studying broad
patterns of e-government around the world, the survey assesses the e-government
development status of the 193 UN member states. It serves as a tool for
decision-makers to identify their areas of strength and challenges in
e-government to inform policies and strategies. It also supports countries’
efforts to provide responsive and equitable digital services to all and bridge
the digital divide in fulfilling the principle of leaving no one behind.
The survey in
particular examines how governments can use e-government and information
technologies to build sustainable and resilient societies. By ranking them
according to agreed criteria – Denmark topped the latest rankings with the UK
in 4th place – it also offers a
picture of their relative success.
The UN aim is to
invite all stakeholders to collaborate in using e-Government solutions to promote
sustainable development and generate public value ensuring access for all to
inclusive public services.
The UN said that
the increasing use of ICTs by institutions has a dramatic impact on public
services and their delivery. Indeed, ICT-enabled public service delivery is
much more affordable for an increasing number of users and more cost effective
for governments than traditional supply channels. ICT use also enables more
targeted, personalised and up-to-date service design and delivery. That gives the
service user greater benefits than the sole reliance on traditional service
channels, in terms of access, convenience through 24/7 availability, savings in
time, and the cost of travel to physical premises such as offices.
transforms citizens’ lives, communities, civil society groups and businesses
from passive consumers of data and knowledge to active producers. Governments
thus need to recognize the value of collaboration and crowd-sourcing, which
enable citizens and others to contribute as co-creators”, the UN said.
explores a number of areas within e-Government such as cyber security, digital
inclusion, smart cities and digital identity.
The UN estimated
that the cost of addressing cybercrime will double from $3tr in 2015 to $6tr by
2021. One reason is the increasing interdependence of ICT devices and
components, where the disruption of one may cascade and affect many other
The survey said,
“More than a third of cybersecurity breaches are caused by “successful”
exploitation of known vulnerabilities. Cyberattacks vary, but their effects can
be devastating. For example, in May 2017, the “WannaCry” ransomware attack
affected 150 countries, wreaking havoc on societies and resulting in financial
damages. This included the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service
(NHS) systems were targeted. At least 81 of the 236 NHS trusts were affected,
destroying key medical equipment and risking patient safety. The economic
impact of that cyberattack was estimated to be more than $100m.”
The UK issued its
second five-year National Cyber Security Strategy in 2016. “The Strategy,
established by the Cabinet Office, aims to make the country one of the safest
places in the world for online business” the UN said.
Some of its main
objectives are to make the UK more resilient to cyberattacks, enhance stable
cyberspace in support of open societies, and create a stable and secure place
for conducting business in cyberspace. All of these goals are directly related
to the further development of e-Government and cybersecurity, involving both
private and public sectors
New Technologies (AI and blockchain)
The UN recognises
that fast-evolving technologies have a potential to transform the traditional
way of doing things across all functions and domains of government as well as
the ways in which ICT offer governments an unprecedented opportunity to achieve
sustainable development and improve the well-being of their citizens.
The UN thinks that
the challenge lies in the fact that “the speed with which technology is
evolving surpasses the speed with which governments can respond to and use ICTs
to their advantage”.
discusses some of these transformative technologies, such as data analytics and
Artificial Intelligence (AI) including cognitive analytics, robotics, bots,
high-performance and quantum computing, explaining how forces driving such
technologies are the result of long-term and painstaking research and
The UN said, “Data
is being currently referred to as the new oil, the new raw material driving
innovation and growth in both the private and public sectors. Indeed, data use
will grow exponentially in the next decade and will offer the ability to
systematically analyse and act in real time in solving more complex business
problems, creating more competitive advantage and making better informed
decisions in a tightly connected world. Yet, integrated approaches to achieving
synergies and minimizing trade-offs may remain relatively untapped in many
recognises that AI is beneficial, particularly with its potential applications,
touching on Neural Networks, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and
Robotic Process Automation. “The recognised benefits of AI are error reduction,
robust functioning, delegation of repetitive jobs, improved security, improved
business operations as well as improved customer experience”, the UN said.
It said, “However,
the rise in use of AI also carries uncertainty in terms of employment. It is
feared that AI, particularly robotic automation, will leave low-skilled workers
without jobs. The fourth industrial revolution and convergence of innovative
technologies such as Big Data, Internet of things, cloud computing, geo-spatial
data and broadband, AI and machine learning, is promoting a dramatic shift
towards more data and machine-driven societies.”
transformation does not depend only on technologies alone, but also requires a
comprehensive approach that offers accessible, fast, reliable and personalised
services. The public sector in many countries is ill-prepared for this
transformation. Governments can respond by developing the necessary policies,
services and regulations, but many of these instruments are slow in being
“brought to the market”. Principles such as effectiveness, inclusiveness,
accountability, trustworthy and openness should direct the technologies and not
the other way around”, the UN added.
concludes that while e-Government began with bringing services online, the
future will be about the power of digital government to leverage societal
innovation and resilience and to transform governance to better achieve the
The UN recognises
that the advantages of Blockchain over traditional centralised databases are
that it can offer resilience in cases where central databases are difficult to
secure. It also distributes management of the ledger, increasing trust in it by
not centralizing its management in the hands of more actors.
survey points out that this piece of technology requires a large peer-to-peer
network to resist manipulation of the blockchain.
“Having only a
small number of nodes can increase the likelihood of the blockchain being
compromised. To increase the size of the peer-to-peer network also means that
there should also be an incentive to do so. In commercial applications such as
cryptocurrencies, those incentives are financial. For public services,
alternative incentives should be devised. Advances in computing also present a
possible risk to the cryptography, technology that Blockchain currently relies
on. It is thus crucial to consider security in any application,” it said.
potential public sector application for record management, identity management,
voting, taxes and remittances, and even Blockchain-enabled regulatory
reporting. A proof of concept was developed, for example, in Ireland.
Blockchain can equally be used to better manage development aid by enhancing
security and transparency, as well as making international payments more
accessible and easier to monitor”, the UN added.
estimates that around 1.1bn people worldwide—mostly people living in poverty,
migrants and refugees —have no legal identity. The UN wants to address this
issue as it believes that providing digital identities to these vulnerable
group can help by expanding financial inclusion and preventing fraud and
corruption in the delivery of social services.
The survey brings
both the Peruvian national electronic identity document (DNIe) and the Indian
Aadhaar programmes as examples of successful efforts to provide digital
established in 2014, integrates two digital certificates, one of which enables
the cardholder to sign electronic documents with the same validity as
hand-written signatures. The electronic ID provides access to all public
digital services, for example, electronic voting or processing certified copies
of official acts with full legal value. The identification system has been
recognized by the UN as one of the best in Latin America.
In India, the
Aadhaar program is providing digital identity to the entire population and is
serving as the basis for interacting with the Government at various levels.
Aadhaar captures a biometric profile consisting of an iris scan, finger prints
and a photograph. Most Indian States have now enrolled more than 80 per cent of
The UN said that
the opportunities to create digital identities are further enabled by high
mobile penetration rates. As most mobile operators are now mandated to verify
the identification of users when they register a mobile SIM card and now have
‘know-your-customer’ (KYC) obligations for mobile financial services,
governments have now an opportunity to increase digital identity registrations
and improve socio-economic outcomes. For instance, mobile operators are now
involved in birth registration systems in the United Republic of Tanzania,
Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and other African countries.
provides an overview of assessment models and presents the findings of a pilot
study on e-Government carried out in 40 cities around the world. Among the top
10 of the 40 pilot cities, Moscow ranks the highest, followed by Cape Town and
Tallinn (second, tie) and by London and Paris (fourth, tie).
According to the
Local Online Services Index (LOSI) used in determining this ranking, the
remaining cities in the top 10 are Sydney, Amsterdam and Seoul (seventh, tied),
and Rome and Warsaw (ninth, tied). The LOSI covers the technical and content
aspects of the city/municipality websites, as well as electronic services
provision and e-participation initiatives available through the portals.
Digital inclusion and Broadband
The survey points
out that to reap the full benefits of e-government moving forward, high-speed
broadband access and greater bandwidth are necessary components. Although both
fixed- and mobile-broadband subscriptions have increased significantly around
the world, the proportion of people who do not have access continues to far
outnumber those who do.
Lack of access
remains a particular problem in low-income countries where in 2016, only 12 out
of every 100 people were Internet users, according to the latest data
countries rated higher in terms of having more Internet users – about 42 people
per 100 – although a majority of their populations remains offline. Mobile
connectivity was once considered a unique opportunity to bridge access divides,
but countries are increasingly realising the importance of fixed-line
infrastructure to enhance e-inclusion and equal opportunity for all. This is
made even clearer with the introduction of 5G mobile networks which require
the world are formulating a wide variety of plans to bridge the connectivity
divide. That includes the UK which yesterday produced a new telecommunications
The UN said,
“Governments around the world are formulating a wide variety of plans to bridge
the connectivity divide. Countries with a clear broadband strategy are also
credited with a higher penetration rate than those without a plan. There are,
however, big differences in funding capacities and national approaches.”
countries, such as France, are focusing government investment almost entirely
on rural areas, in part due to European Union funding guidelines preventing
support for urban areas where private sector operators are investing. In
Australia, the Government is building and funding a national broadband network
combining fixed, mobile, and satellite connectivity”, it added.
The UN said that
the growth in the volume of data sources as well as in analytics tools present
an opportunity to deliver better informed policy-making and to reduce the time
spent on policy cycles and iterations.
determine information flows and influence public-interest decisions, which,
until recently, were handled exclusively by human beings. Taking advantage of
Big Data in the public sector also implies expanding the data pool of
public-sector information and statistics to include new data sources stemming
from the digital economy”, the UN said.
The UN added,
“Data-driven decision making can be applied in different areas of the public
sector. For example, in Latvia, insolvency data is used to plan policies or
support operations in both the public and private sector. In the health sector
in France, as part of the implementation of the national deployment of
telemedicine strategy, the French Ministry of Health has been implementing a
data-driven approach to manage acute stroke. It combines data on the
distribution of population using census data and the distribution of
geographical location of health facilities in the area.”
Meanwhile, as the
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today weighed up its
reaction to the UK’s fall from the top slot in 2016, the influential technology
suppliers group techUK discussed the UK’s rankings slip.
Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK said, “While UK
citizens continue to benefit from one of the top digital governments in the
world, the relative decline noted by the UN in our online services and digital
skills rankings is somewhat concerning given the challenges posed by Brexit.
Digital transformation of the public sector is more crucial than ever to meeting
these challenges and providing UK citizens with better, more efficient public
services that are fit for the future.
“As the UN
recognises, the UK has an ambitious plan in the Government Transformation
Strategy and some solid foundations have been built to help public servants
share between organisations, deliver better data on service use, and drive
adoption of standards that promote interoperability and reuse. For the UK to
recover top spot in the UN rankings, however, we need to see a step-change in the
pace and scale of transformation. We urge Government to draw upon the full
spectrum of skills and experience that the UK’s thriving digital industries can
bring to the table.”